Do You Need a Dental Implant?
We know dental terminology can get confusing at times. If you’ve been diagnosed with the need of a dental implant but have no idea what one is, this blog focuses solely on just that.
What is a Dental Implant?
Comprised of a titanium alloy, a dental implant is a 3.4-5.8 millimeter-wide post that is inserted into the patient’s jawbone. Once the bone has matured around the post, which can take 6-8 weeks, the implant is ready for the abutment on top, and then the crown is placed last.
The crown is designed to look just like the patient’s natural teeth. The end result is a solid, long-lasting tooth that functions just like a normal tooth.
This may sound like a new, high-tech method of tooth replacement, but dental implants have actually been a form of dental care since the time of the ancient Egyptians and the Mayans. These two advanced civilizations used to gather smooth river rocks or shells, carve then down to the rough size and shape of a tooth, then strategically insert one end into the jaw bone of the person missing a tooth. Thankfully, we have fantastic technology now to avoid such crude procedures!
Why Would I Need a Dental Implant?
There are a number of reasons you may need a dental implant. The two most common are:
Structural reasons: large gaps between teeth and in your jaw (gaps from where a tooth used to be) can eventually lead to structural bone loss in the jaw and to your teeth shifting or tilting, and an implant will insure the stability of your jaw and tooth alignment.
- Aesthetic reasons: the missing tooth is a front tooth and your dentist wants to make sure you keep your smile nice and pretty.
At Affiliated Dentists in Madison, we offer a long-term solution to tooth loss through dental implants. The nature and design of these implants allow them to function as natural teeth that can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance.
What Are the Steps Involved in Dental Implant Placement?
As with any procedure, there are many different steps. As dental implants replace extracted teeth or teeth missing, the process can change per patient. For this blog post, let’s use the example of a tooth that was injured due to an object such as a baseball impacting the face.
The very first step is to call and make an appointment to see your dentist. At this appointment an x-ray called a pariapical x-ray, which shows the entire tooth – cusps to root tip – to determine the extent of the damage. If the tooth is beyond saving, you will be given a referral to an oral surgeon’s office for an extraction and placement of a dental implant.
The oral surgeon will extract your unrestorable tooth at their office. Sometimes a bone graft is needed if the x-ray taken in step one shows there is not enough bone to securely hold the future dental implant. Most of the time, however, you will be told to return to the oral surgeon’s office a few weeks later after the extraction site has had time to heal.
Once the extraction site has healed properly, you go back to the oral surgeon’s a second time. At this visit the oral surgeon will numb the area then use a precision drill with a regulated speed to create the correct size hole in the jawbone. After the hole is drilled, a dental implant screw is inserted using specialized tools that will help the dental implant anchor to your bone. Only a very small portion of the screw stays above the gum line. This implant head is where the eventual crown will be cemented to. While you’re healing, however, a dental implant cap – a.k.a. a “healing cap” – is put over the implant. The most common healing time is about three months.
After your recommended healing process you return to the oral surgeon’s one last time where they will check the implant site to ensure the site is ready for the next step. Once your oral surgeon lets your dentist know that your implant site is ready for the final process you return to Affiliated Dentists for the final steps.
Your next appointment is at Affiliated Dentists. This is typically a shorter appointment at which your healing cap is removed and an abutment is snapped into the cap’s place. An abutment is used as a connecting element for the crown. Once the abutment is fitted on the head of the dental implant, your dentist will take an impression of the entire area. When this impression is removed, the abutment is removed along with it. From there the dentist sends the mold with the abutment in place out to a lab, where a dental crown is made using the surrounding teeth and abutment for proper sizing and shaping.
It takes two weeks for the dental lab to hand make the dental implant crown. At your crown cement appointment with Affiliated Dentists your dentist will make sure the look, feel and fit of the permanent crown is perfect before cementing it into place.
What Are the Advantages of a Dental Implant?
There are many advantages to opting for a dental implant.
- Improved Appearance: Dental implants look and feel like a real tooth, and because they are meant to fuse with bone, they become permanent.
- Improved Speech: Dentures can slip and move around in your mouth, causing you to mumble and slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak naturally.
- Improved Self-Esteem: Dental implants look just like your real teeth and they give you your smile back.
- Easier Eating: Dentures can slip around, making it difficult to chew. Dental implants function just like natural teeth.
Implants also have the added benefit of restoring the natural strength of your jaw by evenly distributing the pressure of biting across all the teeth. This equal distribution prevents further tooth or jawbone deterioration.
What About Mini Implants?
As the name implies, mini implants are like traditional implants, only smaller and structured differently. Mini implants are much narrower, measuring between 1.8 to 3.3 millimeters in width, and resemble a toothpick. They are only one piece as they do not have an abutment. Because of their design, mini implants can be screwed directly into the jaw bone. Their smaller size requires less bone to hold it in place.
The benefits of mini implants are that you can have the surgery done more quickly, cheaply, and return to normal eating faster than having traditional dental implants placed.
That sounds pretty great! But we believe that the downsides of mini implants far outweigh the benefits.
Problems With Mini Implants
Still relatively new to the market, not much research has been done on mini implants. What we do know, however, is that mini implants are less durable than traditional implants. Their small size and structure makes them weaker than traditional implants. Traditional implants have a success rate around 95-98%. The success rate for mini implants is less, ranging from 87-94%.
Traditional implants are made of three pieces, the implant, the abutment, and the crown that sits on top. A mini implant, however, is one piece, a toothpick-shaped implant whose top remains above the gum line. With a traditional implant, the implant can be placed in an area with optimal bone density and then the abutment can be angled to put the crown in the best tooth position. This allows for optimal pressure distribution when the jaw is engaged.
Since mini implants are one piece, it’s more difficult to ensure that the crown will be placed in the perfect location, which can cause the crown to fracture and place unequal pressure on the teeth and jaws, causing further oral problems. The small size of the implant also means that it can take less pressure from chewing than normal implants. This is especially problematic for patients who grind their teeth.
Although traditional implants are unlikely to break, if something were to happen, usually only the abutment and perhaps the crown would need to be replaced. With the mini implant, however, the entire implant and crown would need to be replaced, which would require the expense and difficulty of undergoing an additional surgery.
Will My Insurance Cover My Dental Implant?
This all depends on your personal insurance policy you signed up for. There are many insurance policies that cover some portion of the implant and crown procedure, anywhere from 20%-60%, but to find out your exact coverage it’s in your best interest to contact your insurance company and have them break down your coverage over the phone (or you can ask for a breakdown mailed to you). If you require further assistance, you can always bring that information you received from the insurance to your dental office. They will be glad to go over the breakdown of benefits given to you. Here’s a list of what insurances we accept here at Affiliated Dentists. And here’s more details about PPO insurance specifically.
Dental Implants in Madison, Wisconsin
We are passionate about restoring our patients’ teeth so that they can enjoy a healthy lifestyle with a happy smile. If you are interested in dental implants, please make an appointment with us today. Affiliated Dentists offers cosmetic dentistry and dental implants in Madison, Wisconsin.